When you have been to a city before, felt that you have visited most of the important attractions, what do you do? My answer is simple, look out for new places and revisit those good old ones for the sake of nostalgia. That is what I did this time in Budapest.
Last time I was in Budapest, four years ago, I was in a more investigative mood and with more time to spend. I ticked places off my bucket list, and even let myself be drawn into places I never knew existed. Check out that series of articles from Budapest, starting with the one of the hidden courtyards.
This time I was in Budapest attending a conference at day-time and only had a couple of evenings at my disposal. I managed to stay into the weekend but spent Saturday on a day-trip out of Budapest, into the region called the Danube Bend. What comes here is a summary of what I discovered in Budapest in my spare time.
Coming up first, a cemetery.
The Kerepesi Cemetery
For some reason I have become fond of the large cemeteries in the big cities of Europe or in the Americas. See for instance my articles from Paris, London and Havana. From a little bit of research I had found that the most interesting cemetery in Budapest would be the Kerepesi Cemetery. So I went there.
In short I found a bus going in that direction, walked the streets and entered the gate in the wall surrounding the cemetery. And there I was. A wide street was running the length of it. Other streets were crossing the main street. In between a number of graves were marked with small and large gravestones. There were not mausoleums like we see in Catholic countries, and not the large memorials we see in many countries. Most of the graves were of the modest kind. However, here and there there were some monumental structures. They must have been erected for important people, but not of the same family from what I could read on the signs.
A special section of the cemetery was set aside for official purposes, more specifically people who had died for their country. More Hungarian heroes were coming up at my next stop.
The Heroes’ square (Hösök tere)
Budapest is a monumental city, in the sense that there are monumental buildings and sculptures almost everywhere. This square epitomises everything. The tough guys on horses, the layout of the square, the edifices lining it – everything is intended to impress the visitors. I am impressed each time I return. Last time, I was lucky to witness the annual event when a horse race is taking place.
We are now inside what is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. This square is at the end or start, of the wide, straight and long Andrassy Avenue. It is the big shopping street of Budapest, complete with all foreign boutique brands. This time I went underground to the Hösök Tere metro station. The metro line (subway or underground if you like) runs the length of the avenue and is the world’s second oldest metro – after London. In recent years they have restored the line and stations to their original beauty. I got off at the Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út metro station and walked over to the Erzsébet Square.
Erzsébet Square and down to the Danube
This large square and park with a Ferris wheel is the undisputed centre of Budapest. Year round, the streets surrounding it is filled with people on their way between shops, hotels, bars, restaurants or just walking around to see what is going on.
This evening I found a very nice restaurant called the Százéves Étterem restaurant. Traditional food in a traditional atmosphere, and very good.
The restaurant is not far from the river. The Danube runs past several European cities, and in summer a number of cruise ships sail it from Vienna to the Black Sea. The night view from the Pest side of the river, over to the castle on the Buda side of the river is awesome.
That was my first afternoon and evening in Budapest. I went down into another kind of metro station, the Astoria and transported myself back to my hotel in Buda.
A night and then more impressions from Pest
The next afternoon I decided to seek out some more landmarks previously visited, but nonetheless worthy of revisiting. I took a metro train over to the Pest area and walked the streets until I found the Gozsdu udvar. This fascinating series of interconnected courtyards are filled with bars, restaurants and not least street stalls selling anything imaginable.
On the other side I zigzagged the streets until I found another famous landmark, the Dohány Street Synagogue. It is possible to get inside, and on my third visit to Budapest I definitely should have done so – but I failed this time as well. Instead I walked some more or less familiar streets. I bumped into one more of those hidden courtyards I had been to before and entered a church I had never been inside before.
At another square where usually a lot of people gather, the Vörösmarty tér, some festival or street-fair was taking place. A number of stalls had been set up selling all kinds of food. In the corner a band was playing the blues and I was lost.
The Buda castle area
I managed to pull myself away and approached one of the most famous sights of Budapest, the Széchenyi Lánchíd (or simply the Chain Bridge in English). No tourist to Budapest can avoid seeing it, walking across it, or drive across it. There are large chains upholding the towers at the centre, there are lions guarding it and there are lots of people taking selfies. At the other end is the Buda Castle, perched high on the hill above the river. To get up there you have several options, but the best is certainly the funicular.
On top you may not get inside the castle buildings: I would urge you to walk the length of the palace and admire the view of the river and the Pest side of Budapest on the other side. For this reason you should arrive here in the afternoon before the sun sets.
In the evening tourists gather at the Fisherman’s Bastion for a view of the Danube, a selfie in front of the Saint Istvan statue and a picture or two of the Matthias Church. There are restaurants around and as the evenings sets the streets actually become quite peaceful. Suggestion: See if you can find the Fekete Holló Vendégl? restaurant with live Gypsy music.
More about Budapest and Hungary
I feel tempted to list all articles from Budapest here, but instead I will leave a link to all Sandalsand articles from Hungary.